Federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry has said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government believes the country still needs military courts, but an extension in their term remains conditional on consensus among political parties.
In an interview to BBC, Chaudhry said the government believes the need for military courts continues to exist and their term would be extended if there is a consensus among the political parties.
“The term of these military courts will be extended if the government succeeds in getting the political parties to agree [over the matter]. The government is trying to create political consensus over it. If the [other] political parties feel there is no need for [another] extension then there won’t be [another] extension,” the minister said.
The military courts that had been set up under the National Action Plan (NAP) in 2015 to try civilians on terrorism charges, ceased to function on Sunday, March 31 after their second two-year constitutional term expired.
The government is still seeking the cooperation of the opposition parties for another extension, as it would require a two-thirds majority in the parliament houses to carry out the constitutional amendment.
Fawad observed that military courts were an extraordinary step taken in extraordinary circumstances and said that “[we] believe the military courts delivered successfully. There is still a need for them”.
“We are close to defeating terrorism and we believe extension in their term is important but it won’t be possible if there is no consensus,” Chaudhry added.
The PTI government had summoned a session with opposition parties on March 28 to discuss the matter, but it was boycotted by the political parties.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) claimed the government is yet to contact them over the issue. PPP leader Nafeesa Shah told BBC that her party’s stance remains clear that they don’t support military courts.
Since the launch of the military operation Zarb-e-Azb, the interior ministry had referred over 700 cases of terrorism to the military courts. Of these, 185 were still under process and had to be decided by March 30 before the expiry of the term.
The National Assembly was told in November last year that a total of 478 cases had been decided.